S: Amsterdam to Budapest May 2012
FC: Amsterdam to Budapest May 6 - 23, 2012
1: River Discovery II on its maiden voyage from Amsterdam to Budapest, May 6 to 23, 2012
2: We left SFO on Sat May 5th on KLM 606 traveling with friends Verne and Nadine Laursen. The flight was ten uneventful hours arriving Amsterdam on Sun the 6th at 9:15am. We would be boarding Vantage Travel's new RIVER DISCOVERY II that afternoon. Vantage Program Managers met us at the airport including Sandor whose edgy wit was to become very familiar to us as he would lead our group. We stopped at a hotel in the Dam central square for lunch while the ship was readied for boarding. Bruce and Nadine took their first venture out by walking toward the Red LIght District.
3: May 7th, we took a city tour of Amsterdam by bus and visited the Van Gogh Museum. We then toured the canals by canal boat.
4: Today, May 8th, we visited the Cologne Cathedral and the Roman-Germanic Museum; Janine & Nadine shopped, then a beer respite.
6: CASTLES ALONG THE RHINE AND THE "LORELEY"....on the way to Rudesheim.
8: We docked in Frankfurt on May 10th and drove thru this banking/commercial city on the way to Heidelberg to view the castle on the hill above this university city. See the castle walls and moat below. | Note the detail in the castle wall to the left above the moat. This is a latrine...the "stuff" fell free into the moat.
9: Lunch in Heidelberg at Hotel Ritter.
10: On Friday the 11th, we visited Wertheim, a charming little city noted for its glass blowing. The castle is below and the main street upper left. The requisite beer stop is upper right.
11: The photo above is the boat docked at Wertheim. Arrow points at RIVER DISCOVERY. We docked in Wurzburg on Sat and visited the Prince Bishops' Residenz. Entrance and gardens below.
12: In the Cellar of the Prince Bishops' Residenz is a currently operating wine cellar where we enjoyed a tasting and bought a bottle for the cabin. Verne & Nadine below right.
13: BAMBERG, Sunday May 13th
14: Mon., May 14th, Nurnberg, we started the day at the Nazi Party Rally Grounds and Documentation Center (a museum of the 3rd Reich). The building above the viewing stands once had a large Swastika on top which the allies blew up during the occupation. The "Grounds" were the scene of Hitler's rants at large scale party gatherings often used in propaganda films, Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will" for example. This brief trip was the only, once over lightly, reference to the place of the 12 years of the Third Reich in German history. Our local guide gave some interesting personal observations: When his parents were in school, the details of the Nazi years was not taught. His grandparents who were in their prime in the Nazi era would not speak of those years. He and his siblings had a confrontation at his grandfather's house where they were ordered out, never to return. He later found out that his grandfather was a Nazi but "uninvolved" in the war crimes. He indicated his experience was fairly typical of his generation. Congress Hall was a huge building meant to house Nazi Party offices but only the exterior was finished, leaving the inner brick-walled shell. The present-day museum in the Documentation Center is the right wing foreground of the photo. | Nazi Party Rally Grounds | Congress Hall | Congress Hall interior
15: Modern day Nurnberg is a beaufiful city. Plenty of shopping as Janine and Nadine discovered. We had lunch with university students in the city.
16: The evening of May 14th we went through the highest lock on the Main-Danube Canal, 81' at Leerstetten. We are standing on the deck while the water coming into the lock raises the ship, then the lock opens and on we go. The pilot house can be raised or lowered by the Captain to go under bridges. The Captain is demonstrating.
17: May 15th, we were in Regensburg. We strolled to the Roman Bridge with Christine and Frank in the morning and then went to Thurn & Taxis Palace.The weather was not cooperative and we could not do the walking tour of the city.
18: On May 16th we arrived Passau at 7am and left early for Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. We did quite a bit of walking in rainy weather. The town had a large castle with bears in the moat. Good shopping (crystal) at good prices.
19: Czech beer.....GOOD!
20: Scenic sailing thru the beautiful Wachau valley to Durnstein, May 17th.
21: Dinner at the Compass Rose Restaurant on the ship with bon vivant tablemates Nadine, Verne, Nancy and Bob Koehler...many good times on many fun evenings.
22: VIENNA May 18th We are at the National Library, a part of the Habsburg's Winter Palace
23: A Lippizzener's derriere | Visiting the Winter Palace in the center of Vienna. Waiting for the bus by the Opera House.
24: After lunch at a cafe, we walked to the Jewish Museum with Jean and Burt. At the latter part of the 19th Cent. there was a significant Jewish population in Vienna, many of them having migrated from Galicia (see above). Since Bruce has his grandfather's passport from Austria-Hungary and Janine's grandmother's family was in Galicia/Eastern Poland, and some of them likely passed through Vienna, the above was of some interest. Synagogues existed in Vienna since the 12th Cent. At one time (1930's), there were 125 Synagogues and prayer houses, now only one serving a small congregation still exists. Most were destroyed after the Nazi annexation along with Vienna's Jewish population. Interesting to note that Budapest currently has a Jewish community of over 100,000 but Vienna's Jewish community never recovered.
25: Lots of fun, the evening of the 18th at a "heurigen", a Viennese wine garden-inn. Our table consumed five bottles of wine...no one the worse for it; music dancing, singing, great wiener schnitzel. Wonderful night!
26: Schoenbrunn Palace, May 19th
27: Busy evening was the 19th: We went to a very entertaining dance, opera and Viennese waltz concert after the Palace visit; then back to the Captain's Farewell Dinner with our favorite servers and dinner companions. Nancy was refusing desert but "Zorro" was not having any of that. The Chef paid a visit to Bob and a good time was had by all. The photo middle left just catches Marianne, one of our two Budapest Program Managers.
28: Budapest May 20 - 23 | Parliament taken on a night cruise.
29: Buda: The Castle, St. Stephen's statue and views of Pest.
30: Sandor, our Program Mgr. | Captain Roger
31: Top left: Doheny St. Synagogue, largest Synagogue save for Temple Emanuel in NYC. Top rt: Holocaust Memorial on the grounds of the Synagogue above a mass 1944 grave. The Memorial is dedicated to 600,000 Hungarian Jews. Each leaf of the steel tree has an engraved name. Left: St. Stephen's Basilica and interior. Below: Hungarian Folkloric Dance performance.
32: The Opera House
33: On the 22nd, we walked from Heroes' Square to the Gundel Restaurant across from the City Park where we had chocolate covered crepes. We came back to the Corinthia Hotel where Bruce got in a quick swim at the spa. Then it was off to Szentendre. | Heroes' Square | Gundel Restaurant
34: SZENTENDRE A cute little artists' town (read shopping town) on the outskirts of Budapest. A perfect place to buy last minute souvenirs and gifts at the end of a trip. | Where shall we shop next? | Let's shop here! | Look what I bought.
35: Farewell Dinner Corinthia Hotel Budapest May 22, 2012